Here's what you need to know...
- HFS (high frequency strength) uses high-tension, low-load squats at the beginning of each training session, after warming up and before starting the day's main lift.
- You can use any squat variation as a high frequency exercise, but high tension, low-load options work best.
- The HFS exercise may not be the exact lift that you're training to be better at, but it's always a component of that lift or an exercise that carries over to improve performance.
The fastest way to get a stronger squat is to squat more often. However, squatting heavy weights every day is a surefire recipe for burn-out, stagnation, and knees that file for a restraining order. The secret is to work the squatting pattern without overwhelming your body's recuperative ability. To accomplish this, I like to use a system called High Frequency Strength (HFS).
HFS is a means to exploit what our neurology is capable of. It's using high-tension, low-load exercises at the beginning of each training session, after warming up and before starting the day's main lift. The keys are tension and speed. Sure, the loads are light, but each rep is performed with dedicated aggression. We'll cover loading in depth later, but for now think of a weight that's about 50% to 70% of your 1RM. You'll use that weight, moving it with tension, speed, and aggression for sets of 1 to 5 reps, depending on the phase.
Experts often tout variety. The problem is that if you want to be good at something, you need to do it often. Unfortunately, ADHD culture and the promise of results from constant exercise rotation have folks jumping ship on exercises before they've earned adaptation. HFS is the first line of defense against exercise ADHD – you have to stick with exercises for at least 8-12 weeks. This offers a lot of practice.
The HFS exercise may not be the exact lift that you're training to be better at, but it's always a component of that lift or an exercise that carries over to improve performance. Rep after rep your brain learns that the pattern is important and it carries that "knowledge" as you load the movement – or your goal movement – more heavily.
You can use any squat variation as a high-frequency exercise – choices are dependent on your needs and abilities. But there are a few exercises that we use for squat HFS more than others.
- Front Squat with Straps
- Bottoms Up Kettlebell Squats
- Double Kettlebell Front Squat
- Goblet Squat
These squat variations easily meet the high-tension, low-load criteria.
Since this is your first go-round with HFS, I'm going to choose your exercise for you. You'll be doing front squats with straps.
Front squats are great for teaching squat hip and knee movement, but it's also a self-limiting exercise – the loads you're using are a mere percentage of what you can normally back squat. Take what's considered a relatively heavy front squat and cut the load even more – this is where your HFS front squat lives. It's the perfect storm that offers the opportunity to squat every day with minimal consequence and great benefit.
We use straps because they create tension. The ability to squeeze the straps while also pulling up on them with dedicated effort creates the upper-body tension we want to be a better squatter. The opportunity to create this kind of tension isn't available with a clean grip or cross-grip front squat. I'm not saying these grips are inherently bad but they're inferior, unless you're an Olympic lifter. In that case, proceed with your clean grips.
Unless you're a freak, have perfect lever proportions, or enhance your physiology with considerable doses of drugs, squatting heavy every day is nonsensical. That's why the emphasis on high-tension, low-load HFS training is so important – tension followed by an aggressively accelerated rep lays the neurological groundwork for heavy loading. Olympic lifters are so damn strong because along with the heavy loading, they dedicate lots of volume to speed development. With HFS squatting we create the same neurological fire storm that elicits a strength adaptation without destroying our frames and circuitry.
Emphasizing tension and acceleration, all loads chosen for HFS squat exercises fall between 50% and 70% of the one-rep max for that lift. Don't read that as your one-rep max for the squat you want to get better at – it's the one-rep max of the exercise you've chosen as your HFS movement. Of course, not every lifter lives by percentages. If you're more comfortable with the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) system, think 6 or 7 out of 10 on the effort scale.
You'll start the cycle with loads close to 50%, or 6, and end with loads around 70%, or 7. Build progressively in small increments from week to week. Once you choose a load for a given week, stick with it for the entire week and add five or ten pounds next week. HFS loading is the tortoise, not the hare; continue increasing load this way for the entire 12-week cycle.
- You're going to squat every day before your main lift, regardless of what that main lift is (more squats, bench press, military press, etc.).
- You can choose front squats, kettlebell squats, goblet squats, or any other high-tension variation you prefer.
- Choose a weight that's about 50% to 70% of your 1RM, or alternately, a weight that's at 6 or 7 on the RPE scale.
- Your prescribed volume awaits in the chart below.
|Week 1: 3 x 5
|Week 1: 3 x 4
|Week 1: 5 x 3
|Week 2: 4 x 5
|Week 2: 4 x 4
|Week 2: 8 x 2
|Week 3: 4 x 5
|Week 3: 5 x 4
|Week 3: 8 x 3
|Week 4: 3 x 5
|Week 4: 3 x 4
|Week 4: 10 x 1
During the 12-week cycle we build volume, maintain volume and then, ever-so-slightly, add intensity to volume.
Squatting every day goes against conventional wisdom. If you want to be an average squatter, conventional wisdom suits you well; your problem is solved. However, if you want to be a great squatter, get tight, move fast, and let high-frequency be your solution.